Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun officially retires from UConn
By WFSB Staff
STORRS, CT (WFSB) -
The University of Connecticut has announced that Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun has retired as the men's basketball coach and turned over his duties to assistant Kevin Ollie.
Calhoun, 70, has been with the Huskies since 1986. He is sixth all-time in wins in the basketball Hall of Fame and won three national championships.
"I always said that I would know when it was time, whenever that might be," he told the sea of reporters at his press conference Thursday afternoon.
The first was in 1999 when he coached the UConn Huskies to a 34-2 record and their first NCAA championship.
They beat Duke University 77-74.
The second National Championship was in 2004. The UConn Huskies started and ended the season in the top spot at No. 1, beating Georgia Tech in the NCAA championship game with a score of 82-73.
In 2011, UConn finished the regular season in ninth place in the Big East. But, UConn's fight was far from over and they had an 11-game run in the postseason, including a 53-41 victory over Butler to take the National Championship.
"I got chills every time I walked into Gampel Pavilion," Calhoun said.
Building the nationally recognized program was "too complex" for any one person, Calhoun said.
"I just was the focal point," he said.
UConn Athletic Director Warde Manuel called Calhoun a "pillar" in the college basketball community.
"Jim has given 26 years of 100 percent effort into making UConn, and UConn basketball, and so many student-athletes into the best they could be," Manuel said. "I am proud to have worked with him, if only for a brief period of time, and I look forward to his association with us for years to come."
This season, the Huskies were banned from postseason play for a year because of low academic scores that date back to 2007. Five players also left the team this season for various reasons.
"You're going to enjoy watching this team," Calhoun said Thursday.
He added that this team will continue the "Huskies legacy."
Calhoun took time on Thursday to thank all the coaches, players and fans for having "trust" and believing in the program.
"You have to believe you are special," he said.
Calhoun added that his goal was to make sure the teams in the Big East knew the Huskies would be a force.
"We are going to have a voice," he said.
In August, Calhoun broke his hip after he fell off his bicycle and missed his annual charity event at the Mohegan Sun casino. The Jim Calhoun Charity All-Star Game features former UConn basketball players and raises money for the Pat and Jim Calhoun Cardiology Center at the UConn Health Center.
The broken hip was not the first medical problem that Calhoun has endured over the years. Many of them have caused him to miss games.
"The hip injury really didn't enter into the decision, except that it gave me more time to think about it and the more I thought about it, the more I became convinced that this was the right time to move on to the next phase of my life," Calhoun said at the press conference Thursday.
Ollie, who is a former UConn player, was named to the interim job and could win the job outright after a national search is conducted. He becomes the 17th head coach in the school's history.
"I am very honored and humbled to become the UConn men's basketball coach," said Ollie, who will be paid $625,000 annually. "I cannot put into words how grateful I am to Coach Jim Calhoun, who retires today as one of the most legendary coaches in the history of college basketball. Coach Calhoun brought me here to Connecticut as a person right out of high school and has mentored me into the person I have become today."
Calhoun, who handpicked Ollie as his successor, said of all the more than 200 players that he coached over his career, he was the guy you "wanted in the foxhole."
"He epitomizes everything we want at our university," Calhoun said about the new coach.
Calhoun will continue to work for the university as a special assistant to Athletic Director Warde Manuel and as a central fundraiser for the school and the Pat and Jim Calhoun Cardiology Center. His current contract with the school runs until March 21, 2013 and after that time, he will decide his future with program.
UConn president Susan Herbst called Thursday "a tough day for the university," but used it as a chance to thank the man who inspired her every day and built a legacy beyond basketball.
"They don't see that he is one of the most generous people that I know," she said.
Former Speaker of House Tom Ritter said Calhoun single-handedly put UConn on the map.
"Is he larger than life, he really is," he said.
Many students on campus Thursday called Calhoun a "living legend."
"I am from Maine and when I tell them that I attend UConn, they think it's amazing," said Anthony Viola, UConn junior. "And the first thing that they ask about is the basketball team."
Even incoming freshmen are aware of the reputation and impact that Calhoun has had on the university. Freshman Brittanie Farr said it will take "a long time, a very long time" to fill the shoes of Calhoun.
However, some think a coaching change was needed.
"We'll be alright," said Michael Gonzalez, a UConn freshman. "It's time for a change."
Copyright 2012 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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